Opinion | Even from prison, Navalny is the most potent political threat Putin has ever faced

The mocking video had been seen by greater than 90 million individuals as of Tuesday. And its message of defiance helped convey hundreds of protesters onto the streets final weekend in 100 Russian cities to protest Putin’s corrupt and authoritarian regime. Russian safety forces arrested greater than 3,000 protesters Saturday, and Putin on Monday denied that he owned the “palace.” But his aura of invulnerability has been cracked.

Navalny confirmed his braveness by traveling back to Russia on Jan. 17 from Germany, the place he had been recuperating from an assassination try that he says was organized by Putin’s safety service, the FSB. Navalny determined to launch the video solely after he had come residence. When he arrived at the Moscow airport, he was instantly arrested and brought to jail. Two days later, the video appeared on YouTube.

“We came up with this investigation [of the palace] while I was in intensive care, but we immediately agreed that we would release it when I returned home to Russia, to Moscow, because we do not want the main character of this film [Putin] to think we are afraid of him and that I will tell about his worst secret while I am abroad,” Navalny says in a haunting introduction to the video.

Leonid Volkov, the supervisor of Navalny’s 2018 presidential marketing campaign and his chief of employees, spoke with me Tuesday in a phone interview from Lithuania. He stated the purpose of Navalny’s motion is to make Russia “a normal European country with rule of law and independent courts and free media.” Navalny ought to be launched, and Putin, who extended his term as president by a particular constitutional modification, ought to “talk about transition of power,” Volkov demanded.

Navalny’s battle with Putin presents an early check for President Biden and his international coverage workforce. The new administration immediately known as for Navalny’s launch. But Volkov argued that the United States ought to do extra, working with European international locations to establish and freeze property held exterior Russia for Putin’s profit. Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, stated Biden discussed Navalny and different points with Putin in a telephone name Tuesday, however she didn’t present particulars.

Putin’s opulent Black Sea retreat was first uncovered by a whistleblower named Sergey Kolesnikov, in an open letter to then-President Dmitry Medvedev, which I revealed in a Dec. 23, 2010, column. Kolesnikov defined that the palatial property had been paid for by contributions from Russian oligarchs gathered by a St. Petersburg enterprise crony of Putin’s. The cash was channeled by a medical provide enterprise that Kolesnikov ran. He advised me that, for eight years, he supplied common summaries for Putin about his investments, by the St. Petersburg businessman.

In the new video, Navalny interviews Kolesnikov, who confirms on digital camera the story that he advised me 10 years in the past. What’s wonderful is that even after the Black Sea property was revealed again then, Putin’s friends allegedly continued to shovel cash into the advanced. Navalny stated the worth of the advanced was greater than $1 billion and known as it “the world’s biggest bribe.”

Using architectural designs, invoices, drone footage and 3-D visualizations, Navalny provides a hilariously scathing account of the palace constructed for Putin’s pleasure: In addition to the playing den and hockey rink, it has a hookah bar, a stage with a stripper’s pole and an ornate toilet-paper holder that price greater than $1,200.

Navalny additionally describes funds made to the households of two girls he says had been romantically concerned with Putin, who is divorced from his spouse, Lyudmila. He quotes a well known Russian folks music that he says applies to Putin: “Three wives are wonderful, what can you say, but on the other hand — I’ve got three mothers-in-law.”

This mixture of sarcasm and political outrage is what drives Navalny’s motion and appears to provide it resonance with Russians. In the video, he quotes the novelist Leo Tolstoy: “The villains who robbed the people gathered together, recruited soldiers and judges to guard their orgy, and are feasting.”

Navalny now sits in jail. But his words at the finish of the video echo throughout Russia: “The future is in our hands. Do not be silent. Don’t agree to obey the feasting villains.”

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